Friday, 3 September 2010

One Hundred Miles Later

The last two weeks of August saw me on the sunshine island of Majorca (or should I say Mallorca – not sure why we have a different spelling) for the family summer holiday. Now I'm not a big fan of lying in the sun getting skin cancer. And I'm also not a huge fan of The Court of King Caractacus, Agadoo or Big Fish, Little Fish. However, I do enjoy running in new areas, especially if there are off-road routes to be discovered.

My running base was the Protur Bonaire (pronouncd bon-are-ee) Aparthotel in Cala Bona from where you can run along the sea front to Cala Millor and beyond to Sa Coma if the fancy takes you.

However, I found the route to be dull. I know there's a headland with a castle, but the long flat section to get there was boring. Not that it stopped hoards of runners from hitting the prom every morning – but not for me. I prefer something a bit hillier where you stand a reasonable chance of getting lost!

So first things first: rather than heading right from the hotel why not turn left?

OK so you can't run along the sea front. But it does get a bit lumpy after a while. And the road doesn't go anywhere so there's not too much traffic. However, once you get to the end of the road you can't go any further – even on foot. Which is a shame.

So the only other way to go, if you wish to keep your socks dry, is inland. And the good news is the roads are flat no more. For a short sharp bit of fun how about this one (be sure to click "Show Elevation").

And then continuing further to the town of Son Servera there are more hills and trails to explore.

OK so I admit these routes aren't from my first trips into the area. Oh no – those runs included lots of dead ends and accompanying U-turns. But with a bit of persistence and some post run map study (I recommend a combination of Google maps with I was able to cobble together a couple of worthy routes (selecting Satellite Map gives a better idea of the terrain).

Oh and the reference to 100 miles in the blog title - that's how far I ran during my two week visit.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sunday Plod

I wasn't feeling great on Saturday and ended up missing Sunday morning's 7:15 am anniversary run. Instead I headed out mid afternoon for a meander out east. The initial plan was to put in an 8-mile effort taking in Wheathampstead, Gustard Wood and Sauncey Wood. However, I took a wrong turn in Wheathampstead (go figure - it's not as if I've never been there before) and before I knew it was Coleman Green bound.

Not wanting to do the full monty round Brocket Hall golf course I cut back from Cromer Hyde Lane on a new and not particularly great footpath and made my way home via Swan Walk with a quick Marshalls Heath detour thrown in for good measure.

Pace was reassuringly slow - I doubt Kenny would have got out of breath. However, it was the culmination of another 40 mile week (41 miles last week, 38 the week before) so I don't bad.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Hare and Hounds - Getting Slower

If the idea of ruining a set distance under race conditions at monthly or so intervals is meant to motivate and improve performance then it ain't working. Hare and Hounds finish times 2010:
January: 33:12
February 33:52
May 34:05
July 34:16

Today was windy - very windy. Luckily it was coming from the south-west and so behind us on the way back. But that's no excuse. And anyway it doesn't matter because I'm not even pretending to be race fit. And I went to Rockets for the first time for ages on Tuesday. And last Sunday's run was quite tough. And nobody really cares that much.

Andy and Martin were both there. Martin had raced last night so was taking it easy. Andy finished ahead of me and was probably running in flip-flops. Maybe I should give them a try...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Symondshyde Great Wood with Simon

OK so I wasn't aware of Symondshyde Great Wood before today's run. But I am and now and no doubt will be back.

Simon led the way at he usual brisk pace. I thought we were running quicker than we actually were, however, the satellites rarely lie.

Also uploaded to Garmin Connect

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Round Redbourn

Simon ran 20 miles this morning. I managed just over 10. And I bet Simon's average speed was a fair bit higher than mine.

It was lunchtime by the time I got out. However, with a good breeze blowing it didn't feel too oppressive. The route took me down to Rebourn where I found a couple of new paths and then back up the hill to Hatching Green on yet another new path.

Happy (but lonely) days!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Brocket Hall Blast

Cracking weather. Cracking route. Who needs roads when you could do a run like this nearlt all off-road.

Got lazy/tired towards the end and did a section on the Lower Luton Rd but you don't have to.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The long route to Peters Green

With no one responding to my Sunday morning call (text message) to roster I was left on my own for this morning's run. Naturally I took this as an opportunity to sleep in and didn't hit the tarmac until 7:30 am.

The planned route as vague as ever: head in the general direction of Peters Green and see how it goes. As it happens I was barely a mile from home when I deviated from plan. The path through Sauncey Wood was too tempting and then at the end I went left instead of right. Now in new territory the path came to a road. It didn't look familiar so I went straight across onto a promising looking footpath. In truth I thought I was close to Kimpton Bottom. But I wasn't and was now heading east. Eventually after another mile or so I realised where I was and took a right turn and back in the general direction of Peters Green.

Ah but why stay with the known when you can venture off into the unknown. So off-course I went and ended up the wrong side of a barbed wire fence and having to run an extra mile to get back on the right road (mile 5).

So eventually I did make to Peters Green but it had taken a while. I started heading along my newly discovered path to Kimpton but time was against me so I had to cut right and made for home.

Sticking to familiar paths I cover the last 4 miles in good time although overall pace was still only slightly sub 8-minute mile. All in all quite an enjoyable run. Just a shame I didn't have time to make it to Kimpton and Gustard Wood.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

No Dramas

Easy week: 20 miles - lowest weekly mileage since October.

Monday: three miles easy Blackfriars Bridge loop.
Wednesday: five and half miles easy Westminster Bridge loop
Friday: three miles on the treadmill (yes treadmill!)

With Simon entered in the St. Albans half and Kenny not running I was left to my own devices today. Which meant I immediately morphed into Mr Indecisive.

North, south, east, west? Hilly, flat?

Hmm. In the end I decided to start by running north along Swan Walk. Why? Because it was flat. Yup I took the easy option.

But what to do next? Left up the big hill? Right at East Hyde? Right up Copt Hall Lane? My indecision meant I kept going until I'd run past all the options except one: Copt Hall Lane it was.

The running relaxed and easy. There was no need to rush so I didn't. The hill up to Sommeries Castle (it was really a fortified manor house rather than a castle) wasn't a problem. And from there back it was all more or less downhill home.

Eight and a half miles done. No dramas.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Zoo Stampede (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo 10K) June 2010

So four weeks after my PB destroying Dorney Dash 10K I find myself lining up for another "PB Perfect" 10K. Three laps of Whipsnade Zoo were on the cards with the promise the animals would be well fed beforehand and kept in their pens.

The weather forecast had been all over the place with thundery showers, heavy rain, light rain or a combination of all three being predicted. As it happens it was dry and not too warm with a light breeze for good effect.

Once in the Zoo I caught up with the Aro Sports fantastic three before warming-up and rolling up to the start five minutes before the off and bumping into Dave from work. Great - I knew four people and all were faster than me.

The start was uneventful. The hooter hooted and we started running. The majority of slower runners had kept back and the perimeter road was wide enough for all (perhaps too wide!).

First mile went OK. A touch fast maybe but given it was net downhill nothing to worry about. I had a pace that I could just about hold. Just one problem: it was too slow. I felt reasonably good. But the legs felt, well I don't know, just not as fresh as at Dorney. I just didn't have the spark to push just that little bit harder. Was it physical? Was it psychological? I don't know. But the end result was I was unable to pump out the kilometres quick enough.

My finish time? Well lets just say if I decide to join Zoological Society of London (ZSL) before 21st June I'll have to pay £40-48!

So not a good day? Well according to the Garmin my sub-optimal route round that ever so wide road meant I actually ran 6.32 miles. Which, if true, would give an average pace of 6:27 - just one second a mile outside 40 minute pace. So maybe not a complete disaster.

However, I think this will be my last serious race for a while. I've been training hard since last November during which time I've covered over a thousand miles (sound familiar?). For the last 12 weeks I've been consistently covering 45 miles over six sessions, three of which were speed work. It's time to give my body a rest and go back to running for pleasure, Saturday morning bile rides and, dare I say it, the occasional foray over to Southdown to meet up with the Aro Runners.

And hey it didn't go all that bad to day - I lapped Scooby Doo and Simon will have change from thirty-six quid if he decides to join ZSL (Lee and Darren will probably only need a few coppers more).

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Tourists Trail

Today's run started yesterday morning when I woke to find a text from Dave: "In Harpenden tomorrow for a rugby tournament. Want to meet for a run?"

Now Dave hasn't had a blog mention for many a month now. And there's a good reason for this: a year ago he quit the City for the far, far tougher career of teaching. I've only seen him the once since then and so was more than happy to swap Saturday's tempo with Sunday’s easy in order to meet-up.

Further texts were exchanged and agreement was quickly reached on 9:30 start (excellent – lie in territory) for a seven to eight mile run. The distance worked particularly well for me as my schedule had me down for 12 miles and it's just over two miles either way to the rugby club.

I hummed and harred a bit regarding route but finally decided to go for a loop round Harpenden taking in the pleasantries of West and East Common, the High Street (wow so many estate agents and building societies), The Avenues and the Nickey Line. Well Harpenden is nice so why not show it off?

The rain kept off as I filled Dave in with all the coming and goings (mainly goings) at work. And he gave me an update and what it's like being a bone-idle teacher-training student!

Seven and a half miles covered at a relaxed easy pace got us back to the rugby club in time to catch Dave’s daughter in action (did I mention it was a girls' rugby tournament?) and then it started to rain.

Two and a quarter miles home gave me a total of 12.04 for the day. Spot on. Couldn't have planned it better myself.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Hot and Bothered (Hare and Hounds)

Today may well have been the hottest day of the year so far. If it wasn't then it certainly felt like it. So perhaps not the best day for a lunchtime race.

And given my performance today perhaps I shouldn't have bothered. But bothered I did.

I went off too fast, blew up horribly 3 miles in, and limped the final two miles to the finish horribly slowly.

Back at the office I consoled myself by drinking a gallon of chocolate milk... It didn't help.

End of.


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Sore Arm Running

Following the Barbwire And Bloodied Knees incident with Simon I realised my tetanus jab is past its sell-by date and I need a top-up poke in the arm. Evening appointments are as scarce as rocking horse poo at my local surgery so I was booked in at 9:30 this morning for a rendezvous with a large pointy needle thing. Not expecting to get into the office until close on 11 meant a lunchtime run was off the agenda while an early morning jaunt was very much on.

So 6:25 saw me out of the door and heading off in the direction of my new stomping ground: Kimptom Bottom and Peters Green. But first it was up the hill to Sauncey Wood and, hold on, there's a path going through the woods! Well that's an opportunity not to be missed. And what a fine path it was. Wide and not too rutted. Must remember to incorporate it into a Sunday run.

And then it was onto the footpath down to the Blue Cross animal rescue centre on Kimpton Bottom across the road and off in the general direction of Peters Green. Kimpton Road is a bit busy for my liking but I didn't have time to detour (although if you zoom in on the map you can see I did initially turn right and think about it).

For once, time was on my side, so I was able to take it easy and averaged only 8:48 across the whole run. Which is a full minute per mile slower than the similar but longer Black Socks and Ankle Deep Mud run at the start of the month (again with Simon). So if there's one thing we can conclude from today (other than I'm scared of needles) is that left to my own devices I'm a lazy runner.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday Solo

Simon had reported in ill. And Kenny was... well Kenny was more than three minutes late so I left without him.

So all on my lonesome I headed off for what tuned out to be 11 miles of off-road ups and off-road downs (although it's the ups I remember more). New paths were a-plenty including one behind the hedge to the left of Bowers Heath Lane (thanks Simon - beats being squashed by a Chelsea tractor) and the three miles from Peters Green to Kimpton. Three miles! Is that a record?

On reflection I didn't choose the best route out of Kimpton - should have gone left first right when I hit the High Street (instead of the other way around). I'll know better next time.

So all in 10.9 miles covers at 7:50 pace - I would have take it easier but had to push on as I started three minutes late...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Heartwood evening run

Hold on, I just need to check how far it is from London to Geneva... What, about 460 miles? OK that should be far enough..

So this evening I did the unthinkable and had traitor tattooed on my forehead. OK, that might be a slight over exaggeration. But it felt like it. Yes today I went out for my first ever run with "the affiliated running club in Harpenden". Well that's the title across the top of their web pages.

I didn't want to do it - Simon made me. Well actually, more to the point, I couldn't get out for a run at lunchtime. Previously I would have got up early and headed out before breakfast. But today I couldn't be bothered. So instead I went running with them instead.


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Dorney Dash 10K

So today saw me at the 2012 Olympics rowing lake in Dorney, just outside Windsor, for the Dorney Dash 10K. This flat (whoever heard of a sloping lake?) two-lap affair is pure PB material as long as it's not too windy.

The weather forecast hadn't been promising with rain and wind expected to sweep in from the east. If we were lucky it might hold off until after the race. And lady luck was on our side: it was breezy, rather than windy, and the rain ventured no further west than the M25.

The start was well organised and after being advised by the race director to keep out of the water (it didn't look appealing and I can definitely run faster than I can swim) we were off. The first kilometre (3:56) saw the usual jockeying for position and tuning into race pace.

Into the next kilometre and I latch onto a couple of Maidenhead AC runners who look like they're aiming for a similar finish time to me. This turns out to be a bad move: their pace is fast but not quite fast enough. We're loosing four seconds per kilometre and so after four kilometres and 16:08 on the clock I leave my temporary compatriots behind and push on.

I'm relieved to see the next kilometre tick over in four minutes - bang on target pace. Five kilometres covered in 20:08. Five kilometres to go (negative split alert!).

So now we're on our second lap. The path is parallel to and slightly closer to the lake than the path on our first circuit although the view is the same.

I'm pushing hard. 6K split time: 24:07. 7K split time: 28:06. It's frustrating: I'm running at target pace but can't pull back the lost seconds. The thought of missing 40-minutes by a few seconds is crushing. I’m not enjoying myself so much now. This is the best I can do. I promise myself that if I don’t go sub 40-minutes I'll never run a 10K again in my life.

There is a water station at the far end of the lake, 7.5 kilometres in. The runners ahead don't take any water so I don't. I'm pushing harder than ever and overtake a couple of runners. I catch another and he goes with me. I can hear him breathing hard on my shoulder. I don’t look round but check my watch. Pace is good: 6:18. I can do it. In the distance I can see the clubhouse and the finish. I’m running for my life, gasping for air, trying to take deep breaths and get more oxygen into my lungs.

8K split: 32:01 – that’s a 3:55 kilometre. Almost back on schedule but was it too much too soon? The heavy breather is still on my shoulder. I ease slightly, he gets louder, I dig even deeper. We’re pushing each other.

9K split 35:59. Keep going, keep going, keep going. We catch another runner. He tucks in behind. I'm overtaken by David, as I later find my heavy breathing accomplice is called. But I speed up too, we run parallel. We can now actually see the finishing mat. Over the tannoy the announcer says "just 20 seconds to 40 minutes". I know I can make it. I shift up a gear. As I start to pull away from David I turn and yell at him "COME ON! We can do it". I shock myself - I hadn't realised this meant so much to me. The clock is still ticking. The finishing line spectators see us running flat out. Now they’re the ones shouting "come on".

As I cross the line I punch the air. 39:58. My chip time will be four seconds quicker. I've done it.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Race Day Minus One

It’s gotten colder. And windier. The sun hasn't been around for a few days. We've got a hung parliament. It feels like autumn. Running doesn't seem quite as much fun as it did when the sun was out a couple of weeks ago.

It's been a quiet week on the running front: nothing on Monday while Tuesday saw a trip out east with Chris G. We both did three-minute repeats. Chris seven. Me two. Curious as to why the traffic was backed-up along The Highway I following the roads back from Shadwell Basin. A suspect vehicle outside Aldgate tube turned out to be the cause. The police had closed the roads but were happy to allow pedestrians to roam free. Perhaps they believe human flesh it tough enough to protect from a blast and the accompanying shrapnel.

Wednesday had me running through Paris. No not the Paris to be found 98 miles northeast of Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas. And not even the Paris to be found 20 miles west of Euro Disney. This Paris, with its glorious parks, fabulous architecture and gangs of scruffy youth loitering menacingly can be found in the open space between Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade. Hold on. That’s St James Park. But everyone was speaking French! Niall would have been in his element.

On Thursday I substituted the evening's Assembly League Big Tent race with a pre-race hair cut (proven to increase race pace by approximately two seconds per mile) .

And today I did three easy miles over to Tower Hill, down to the Wobbly Bridge and back via St Paul's. It sure was bone chillingly windy out there but also surprisingly warm when sheltered. The legs still feel a but stiff but as long as I warm up properly tomorrow I should be OK.

There's nothing else I can now do. I've followed the seven-week training schedule closely with just a couple of easy runs dropped in favour of rest days. Tomorrow I'll have porridge with honey and banana for breakfast and then a bagel bang on one hour before gun time. I've done my best to change the variables I have control over. Unfortunately the weather isn't one of them. It will be what it is and I will deal with it.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Black Socks and Ankle Deep Mud

Black socks! Brilliant! Why did I never think of it?

When it's tippling down with rain and you're ankle deep in mud, black is where it's at. And if you have matching black trail shoes all the better. I had neither (although if you'd seen me at the end of today's run you wouldn't have known).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We need to go back to 8pm Saturday when it started to rain. And then it absolutely pelted it down all night. So although it was hardly raining when I met Simon outside The Amble Inn at 7:20 the ground was wet, sodden, drenched.

We headed north along Swan Walk to East Hyde and then took an Ultra John footpath up to Peters Green. I'm sure with fresh legs on a glorious sunny day the path is an absolute delight. However, with heavy legs from yesterday's 11-mile romp, traversing the wet slippery grass and rutted mud was a real slog. The views on the way up are probably magnificent too. All I saw was gazelle legs Speirsy effortlessly bounding ahead.

Today's route took in many fine (i.e. muddy) paths interspersed with short sections on-road. Advanced route planning was minimal with a good few "I wonder where this path goes? Let's find out" and a handful of "Hang on - I recognise this path, but last time I ran it in the opposite direction".

The day ended with 10 miles covered at an average pace of 7:48. Not a bad result given the conditions under foot. If it hadn't been for Simon I would have skipped the loop out from Marshall's Heath Lane to Gustard Wood golf course and back (mile eight). Windy, muddy, nasty and a footpath flooded into a fully-fledged ankle-deep stream. What was the boy thinking?

So this week has ended with 50 miles on the clock which equals my second ever highest weekly mileage (the highest was during my 2005 marathon training).
Now do remind me again - is it a 10K or a 100K I'm training for?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Barbwire And Bloodied Knees

Simon is the new Niall. OK so he doesn't talk with a foreign accent. And I don’t believe he is aspiring to emigrate to a nanny state European tax haven renowned for it’s cuckoo clocks and yodelling (or is that Austria?). But when it comes to appetite for trail running and exploring new footpaths Simon is now right up there with the greats: Ultra John, Niall and, dare I say it, my humble self. Even a barbwire barricade is no deterrent to Speirsy – although it did prove a bit much for Shorty Savage.

Today’s run was advertised as three miles easy, three miles fast (10K pace) followed by another three miles easy. Simon was the only buyer in the market although he left it late before fully committing himself.

I was struggling to decide on a route and left to my own devices wouldn't have ventured much beyond Harpenden's suburban fringe. Luckily Simon was more inspired and suggested a route out to Sandridge (original name "Saundruage" meaning a place of sandy soil serviced by bond tenants).

Three miles in and we're at one of the higher points of the run so the first tempo mile saw us tumbling at speed downhill. Into the village of Sandridge and left onto the gradual climb to Nomansland. Ten minutes later and I'm now heading across the common. Up front something is wrong. Simon is no longer a white dot getting ever smaller in the distance but is stationary. My watch says 2.5 miles. I catch up: 2.65 miles. I'm too exhausted to push on. "Oh well" says Simon cheerfully, "2.65 miles off-road is the equivalent to 3 miles on tarmac". I gladly buy it. It might even be true.

We ease off again in the direction of home; however, Simon is a changed man. The fast effort seems to have cleared last night’s alcohol from his system and he's full of energy like a playful puppy. "Ooh look a footpath! I bet that will take us through to Mud Lane" and he's off.

It did, although at first we went the wrong way on Ayres End Lane. We join Mud Lane (which wasn't) and then just before the railway he dives off onto a footpath to the right. New one on me – good call. But it isn't. The gap where the path joins Cross Lane resembles the perimeter of a prisoner of war camp. There's barbed wire everywhere (and probably a few land mines to boot). To the longer legged the hurdle is crossed with ease. I struggle. Snag my shorts a couple of times, get cut on both knees and we retreat.

East Common and the golf course are our allies as we return to civilisation. I'm a bit bloodied and muddied and we've gone over distance (see told you – the new Niall) but we will regroup and return to run another day (oh no – that will be tomorrow). Now where did I leave those wire cutters?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hounds And Hare Backwards

More in reverse than backwards but I'm sure you get the drift.

Having run Billy No Mates for the last couple of weeks I sought human companionship today in the form of JPM runner Andy Stubbs. I had intended asking him what the black dog reference in his blog was all about but forgot. Instead I mused over whether Nigel is a stupid name for a squirrel or not. And if it is then what constitutes a sensible name.

Alas today we say no marching bands playing pick of the pops and there were no close death experiences crossing roads. Andy did his now legendary darting through the tourists while I dutifully followed.

Eight miles covered and I don't feel too bad. Maybe running can sometimes be enjoyable after all.

Overdid It

Did a five-mile steady Westminster Bridge loop yesterday while today’s session was five-minute repeats off two minutes recovery.

Running out along The Embankment worked hard to keep the pace sub 10K. Then on the way back disaster: had to cut the fourth rep a minute short as needed to pay a visit.

Emerged a couple of stone lighter but with very tight leg muscles. Feeling guilty over the four-minute rep did a further two five-minute efforts taking the total up to six instead of the five demanded by the training schedule.

Got back to the gym absolutely cream cracker’d. Didn't fall asleep at my desk so still have a job to go back to tomorrow – should I be glad?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Field of Some Importance

Footpaths go places - right? You join one, go along it for some distance and then leave it. You have arrived. Perhaps you are now at the junction with another path, a rural village, a famous poet's birth place. Something. Anything. But not this one:

And don't be fooled by into thinking it leads to a reservoir - because it doesn't:

My faith in Hertfordshire footpaths has been destroyed.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

7-minute mile Saturday

Saturday morning and according to our beloved weather forecasters the mercury is set to rise steadily throughout the day. I'm out of the door at 8am and it’s still a chilly five degrees (yes Celsius). Unlike me, however, the sun didn't have a lie-in and is already burning bright.

Seven to eight mile tempo is today’s treat and I've decided on the "not quite as far as Sommeries Castle" loop. However, in a break with tradition I'm to run clockwise. This has the advantage of hitting the big climb after three miles, when I’m nicely warmed up, instead of three minutes when I'm still running like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The first mile is flat. Perceived effort is 7.5. Yet it takes me 7:08. Oh – no. Not another tempo effort – tortoise speed run! But the next two miles are sub 7 reinforcing the value of a decent warm-up (well more than this morning's two minutes).

Then, three miles in and it's a right turn onto Copt Hall Road and almost a mile of uphill. It's not too bad at first and I'm able to hold good form. However, as it steepens towards the top I revert to running like my Disney nemesis. But 7:40 for the mile is OK. I'm half-way through the run and it's now (almost) all downhill.

I hold steady 6:53 pace for the next two miles as I motor through Peters Green before dropping down to Kimpton Bottom. So far so good. But now it's the climb up to Sauncey Wood. Not too long. Not too steep. But the legs aren't pleased.

Then, hurrah, the final decent. It's shorter and steeper than Copt Hall Road. My legs spin at 200 RPM to get me down as quickly as possible. A quick check of my Garmin at the bottom and I'm relieved to see the time lost on the earlier climbs has been recovered.

I will average sub seven minute pace after all. The tortoise has been banished – at least for today (he’ll be back).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Not Clever

Out and back run: 20-22 minutes out; faster back.

So let's make that 3 miles at 7 min/mile out. 3 miles at something nearer 6:30 back. Great plan!

Covered the first mile, dodging through city streets, in 6:57. Down to the Embankment and hey ho the wind is behind me as a breeze along the river and over Westminster Bridge in 6:45 and 6:41. Turn around and it's up over the bridge again and back into the wind: 6:22. Too hard, too fast. Flat out effort gets me back to the Wobbly Bridge and up the steps in 6:50. I'm dead.

So a big fat nil points for me for run strategy. And remind me once again why I chose to follow a training schedule that doesn't specify run pace for each session?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Today I bumped (not literally) into Kate while running along the Embankment. At the time I didn't know her name was Kate because I have a less than useless memory. Kate is big fan of the 1,000 miles in 1,000 minutes man and was there last Saturday to witness the great event. At the time I chatted to her and her husband (nope - no idea of his name) for quite a while about running, triathlons, training and stuff.

I had to text Kenny to find out her name. I'll feel a lot better if I later find out she hasn't remembered my name. Then again unless she also writes a running blog she probably doesn't need to know it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Happy New Year

So today Kenny and I did a shortened version of the New Year's Day 13 mile off-road classic. I guess we could have made the full route if Kenny had a) been bothered to get up for a 7am start as I suggested b) wasn't in super taper mode and c) didn't stop every 10 minutes for some organic fertilising.

Kenny had a 10-mile route in mind (8.6 miles if starting/finishing at The Amble Inn). I persuaded him a knew a variation that was "probably about the same distance" (if you look on the map not far after the 4-mile marker you can see the turning he wanted to take). So I was wrong. I guess he did 12 miles in all. But come on - for someone who's just run a thousand what's a couple more miles. Well anyway he wasn't too happy with me. I'll live.

Many congratulations to Simon for his 12th place (36:06) and Darren's 30th place (38:07) in the Flitwick 10K. Very impressive for a race with just on 800 runners. I wish I could run that fast...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

London Marathon 2010: Harpenden man running in a kilt

Today I was lucky enough to be invited to spend some time with local running celebrity Ken Murray, 44, of Shakespeare Road, Harpenden. Frequently seen pounding the streets of Harpenden, Herts, in his kilt, this tireless charity fundraiser has built quite a following on his blog, as he attempts to complete 1,000 miles in preparation for the Virgin London Marathon.

Kenny confided in me that his training schedule, in and around Harpenden, Herts, UK, included sprint drills, tempo runs and long runs and had been designed to optimise his performance on marathon day where he hopes to hit his target finish time of three hours.

It was truly fascinating to witness at first hand how an athlete at the top of his game organises his day. In close attendance at all times was his personal nutritionist who kindly prepared a sample of the Scotsman’s stable training diet: bacon butties. Combined with cups of tea these high fat rolls are the ideal post exercise fuel.

The highlight of my time was undoubtedly being invited to join Kenneth on one of his training runs. I consider myself to be in reasonable shape but still had trouble keeping up on what he told later me was an easy half-mile jog. By performing multiple half-mile jogs without a rest between it was explained to me how it is possible to build up over time sufficient endurance to run 1,000 miles non-stop.

All too soon my time was over. I wished the gentle giant good luck for next week when he attempts to run 10,000 miles in two hours, stepped back into my spaceship and returned to planet earth.

What a complete and utter loony.

(ps read all about it here)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Five miles and a battle.

It's amazing how full of history London is.

Today I did a steady pace five miler (7:15 to 7:30 pace) along a route I've done a few times recently: down to Tower Hill, east along Cable Street (runs parallel and between The Highway and Commercial Road) and back via Shadwell Basin.

So when I get back to the office I want to double check Cable Street isn't actually spelt Cabel Street (well you never know). And the first result returned from Google is for the Battle of Cable Street. I had absolutely no idea (I wonder how many other people live on that street and have no idea either).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Miserably Ten

So we’re staying with friends for the weekend. They know I run. They automatically assume I’ll be going for a Sunday morning run. That's good.

Steve kindly printed out a section of the local Ordnance Survey map (via some clever software where you buy map squares by the Kilometre) for me to follow. So far so good. Out of the door 8am Sunday morning. Take the gloves but leave the hat behind.

First mile and a half over familiar territory goes fine. Then I pick up the South Cheshire Way. Don't bother - it's rubbish. Swamps, bogs, shoe swallowing mud, long wet grass and footpath arrows but no visible path on the ground. It was a complete nightmare. I usually enjoy venturing off road into the unknown but not today.

It was a relief to get back on the tarmac. But by then my enthusiasm was gone. There is good running to be had in the area. But not today.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

One Mile Reps

Busy day today so it was out of the door at 6:30 AM or not at all. Session was a few miles warm up, 3 x 1 mile at 10K pace followed by a few miles warm down.

Not being as hardy as the 1,000 mile Virgin I ventured out wearing base layer, long sleeved top, gloves and hat. Although to be fair I was in shorts and the gloves and hat did come off during the 1-mile efforts.

So up until now my tempo runs have all been over dead flat terrain. Today, however, I ran on a section of the Lower Luton Road between Batford and Wheathampstead. More specifically from the Wheathampstead sign at the top of the short rise to the east of Batford, past the Indian restaurant by Cherry Tree Lane to the pelican crossing by Folly Fields. Now there are no hills as such between these two points. However, there is a tiny bit of up and down. Not a lot. But enough to make hitting target pace a real stretch.

The first mile from Folly Fields towards Batford took 6:22. Back to Folly Fields was 6:12. And to Batford again was 6:27. All with two minutes recovery. So with an average pace across the three miles of about 6:20 I guess I did OK. Legs do feel tired though...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

10K Pace Tempo

The schedule said "25-30 mins tempo run" which I interpreted as "four-mile tempo at close to 10k pace".

After racking my brain for a good route I remembered the Wobbly Bridge/St James Park loop is just over four miles. I used to do this run regularly, however, have been put off from doing it of late due to road works making the crossing of Whitehall extra difficult. If I'm heading over that way these days I'm more likely to cut up to Trafalgar Square, run down The Mall and go round Green Park.

However, none of that today. Along The Embankment, right onto Horse Guards Avenue, straight over Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade, clockwise loop of St James Park and back (via Trafalgar Square due to horses and tourists blocking the parade ground).

Surreal moment of the day was hearing The Band of the Coldstream Guards playing My Way (presumably not the Sid Vicious version) from their barracks near the top of Horse Guards Road. They were probably just out of earshot of Queenie who no doubt would not have been amused (off with their heads!). However, there was no marching band massacre today - just lots of amused (and bemused) tourists. I did consider hanging back in case their next tune was Sex Bomb but decided on balance it was unlikely.

So what about the run? Well the plan was to go out sub 6:30 and keep going at that pace. And as plans go it turned out quite well. I ran a touch too hard (need to watch that for the race) and ended up with a stitch kicking in about mile three. I was able to run through it for another mile but had to stop once the four-mile split beeped. And the pace was indeed sub 6:30 so happy days (although route was pancake flat). Rest day tomorrow so even happier day!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Testing Tuesday

This was never going to be easy. Two to three mile warm up (make that two miles). Two sets of 7 x 400m with 400m jog recoveries (7 x 90 seconds with 60 seconds recovery). Five to six minutes between sets (six minutes). Two to three mile cool-down (two miles).

Body was still tired from the long weekend's exertions and was now in shock thanks to the early morning "back to work" start. The arrival of an engineer to take a poke around my sick PC was the trigger to get me away from the desk and down to the gym. But even then the battle wasn't over with serious consideration given to going downstairs for a trot on a treadmill. However, common sense prevailed and I dragged my weary body outside into the wind & sunshine.

Down to Tower Hill and back to the Wobbly Bridge clocked up two miles and time to start the reps. The wind was against me on the way out to Vauxhall Bridge so the pace was never going to be blistering. However, that meant I relaxed and ran more naturally. Which is a good thing – no? Pace into the wind was about 6:40 while on the way back was nearer 6:10 which gives a good indication of how strong it was blowing.

With long recoveries relative to the interval run time the session turned out to be not as difficult as I had anticipated. This is probably due to making a conscious effort not to over do it on the way out. So satisfied with the session. Easy run tomorrow so hopefully legs will feel OK for Thursday's short tempo.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Holiday Monday Hoof

It seems like an age since I last met up with Kenny for a run. So long in fact that the cheeky runt wished me a Happy New Year when we met up outside The George at 8:15 this morning (well it is Bank Holiday Monday).

With no particular route in mind we headed through Rothamsted Park and across the field towards the rugby club (ah come on Kenny – how can you not have done this footpath before?). From there the only thing to do was pick up the newly discovered path round the back of West Common to the top of Beeson End Lane. Back to St. Albans Road and a quick left and first right took us onto Cross Lane and back to Southdown and home territory.

Today’s run was far more about conversation and catching up than covering miles and cardio training. Judging by the speed of his most recent reps session it sounds like Kenny is on fire. In this form I can’t think of a race distance over which he wouldn’t whip my ass good and proper. I think I’ll stick to my current plan of race avoidance. However, I did point out there seemed little need to aim for 3:10 when 3:15 will give a guaranteed good for age place in the 2012 London marathon (assuming the qualifying times don’t change).

Anyway can you believe Vienna by Ultravox was released in 1981? That's nearly thirty years ago! I mean thirty years. And it never even made number 1. But what can we do?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sunday Slog

I'm tired. We have family staying over Easter and spent yesterday trudging round the Natural History Museum. If was mad busy (45 minute queue just to get in) and draining. Add late nights and over eating and the result is motivation is at an all time low. I'm Billy no mates too. How I made it over the doorstep this morning I'll never know.

But I did. Maybe I'm experiencing what Nigel The Squirrel calls an "empty day". Over the doorstep and north towards Luton Airport - straight into the wind. Nine to ten miles in this? I'll be lucky to do nine to ten minutes. So I plod along the valley, turn right and plod even slower up the hill to Peters Green. Mid way up a shoelace comes undone. An excuse to stop. But not for long.

I continue out towards the Sommeries but turn left down Copt Hall Road before I get there. Notice some interesting woods up on the left. Another day maybe. Back into Harpenden via Cooters End Lane and I've only covered eight miles. Uh-oh.

Based on Kenny's assurance of safe passage I decide to divert into Highfield Oval. The notice on the way in says riff-raff allowed in between 6am and 6pm. I check my watch (and accidentally hit the pause button). Safe.

Round the back I find some woods. No bluebells but the muddy path reminds me of Sherrardswood Park. The cemetery reminds me of our mortality.

Back home but I'm not sure how far I've covered. A bit of playing on map my run and I decide its 10.5 miles.

Right then, where did I leave those Easter eggs? I think I deserve one.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Sunday Long (yes on Friday)

A week into the training schedule and its already gone Dolly Parton/Pete Tong.

Wednesday should have been "4-6 miles slow". However, I got tied up with stuff at work and didn't get out at all. Yesterday I did the scheduled out and back tempo. However, today is down as a rest day. Which given I had the unscheduled rest only two days ago isn't on.

So taking into account I had the day off work and the clocks go forward on Sunday I decided to move Sunday's "8-9 miles easy" to today. As to what to do on Sunday... well we'll see.

Today's route was for the most part made up on the fly. The general plan was to start out heading south in the direction of St Albans (and into the wind) before turning for home with the wind on my back. So I left the house and immediately started running north before looping back through the town centre and heading over to West Common via Rothamsted Park.

From West Common I decided to try picking up the footpath across the fields to Beeson End Lane - which I managed at the second attempt. But once on the track forked right towards Redbourn. At some point during the subsequent couple of miles I lost the official path and eventually found myself up by the rugby club overflow car park. Note quite what I'd been aiming for but no harm done (and no shots fired by angry farmers).

And then much to my surprise I found the missing a link - a footpath running parallel to Redbourn Lane. This road has no pavement or runnable verge and is far too busy to risk running in the road. Quite a result I'd say.

Turning right at the bottom of the hill took me on to the Nickey Line. At the top of the incline I threw in a quick skirt round the perimeter of Rothamsted Park before making for home.

Ten miles covered at average pace 7:46. Not quite as quick as last Sunday with Simon but still more than good enough for an easy long.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Step-Up Out and Back Run

Out and back run: 15-18 mins out; faster back

And there in lies the problem with this training schedule: it doesn't specify target pace.

So I decided I'd target running out two and a half miles at seven minute mile and head back fifteen seconds a mile faster. The chosen route was Wobbly Bridge north side to Albert Embankment via way of Westminster Bridge and avoiding steps by going round the back of St Thomas hospital.

The wind was generally against me out to the turn but nowhere near as strong as last Saturday. Hitting target pace on the way out wasn't a problem while on the way back I averaged nearer 6:30. So if the wind was giving me say ten seconds per mile that gives me 6:50 out and 6:40 back.

I guess that's OK.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Nearly getting dropped on a warm-up is never a good sign. And true to form today's Rocket's session didn't go well. You could say I was running in a class of my own. Unfortunately the class was well off the back.

I blame Martin - he wasn't there and so I was left to languish in isolation.

The session was four minutes off 90 seconds recovery. The fit and able did six reps. The weak and feeble four.

Oh well no one said it would be easy...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sunday With Simon

After yesterday's day-long drizzle it was a relief to see this morning break bright and sunny. And cold... So I was back in longs, gloves and hat as I headed down to The George to meet Simon.

The plan was to do about eight miles and with the wind blowing from the north I suggested we head over to Swan Walk and head towards Luton. The JCBs have been at work behind the sewage works which I hope means the missing link will be paved by summer. However, in the meantime the path is a mud bath and running single file to the side was the only safe way to traverse.

When we got to New Mill End I think Simon was slightly surprised that I wanted to go left up The Hill instead of sticking in the valley. However, he was more than happy to oblige and I'm sure must have secretly enjoyed watching me struggle to maintain the conversation as we ran up-hill.

Once up top we dipped into Luton Hoo to see how the idle rich spend their weekends before heading home via what is now becoming a standard route: Kinsbourne Green Lane, Roundwood Lane, Falconers Field and Roundwood Park back to the Nickey Line.

Simon was running to a deadline and made sure the pace stayed healthy and I didn't slack. In the end we covered just over nine miles at an average pace of 7:39. Not bad give there were a few bumps. Nice one - thanks Simon.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Saturday Sprint

Speed work on a Saturday morning - who'd have though it? Well the person who put together my 10K training schedule did. Hence this morning I was down for "warm up, then 20 mins fast tempo run, but not flat out". Fast tempo but not flat out - so how fast is that? Hmm, well the nice people at FIRST have mid-tempo as 6:41 and short tempo as 6:26 so I guess I should be aiming for the later. 6:26 does sound a bit punchy though - let's see how it goes.

So with target pace numbers swirling round my head I headed out this morning just after eight although it felt much later (possibly because it was already 11 degrees). The master plan was to warm-up down to Harpenden and then run a three-mile route out through Rothampsted Park, over to West Common, and back.

There was drizzle in the air and the wind was dead against me as I headed up through the park. It was hard work and the first mile to Hatching Green took 6:56. Yikes - that's not very good! However, with the elements switching to work in my favour I was then able to cover the second mile in 6:23 for the third in 6:16.

So 6:32 average for the three miles. On the one hand not bad. But on the other probably not quite good enough. And it hurt! I can see this schedule is either going to give me a PB or kill me. I do hope it's the former.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

5 (Five) Runs, 8 Miles

Not to be out done by 1K Kenny's 4 (Four) Runs, 15.2miles today I completed five runs. Okay so they comprised 1.4-mile warm-up, 2-miles hard, 1-mile recovery, 2-miles hard, and 1.6-mile warm-down. Impressive eh? OK maybe not...

Anyway, having achieved my long-term goal of a sub 1:30 half I've been thinking about what to aim for next. 10K is the obvious target and with an 18-month old PB of 41:24 I think there's scope for improvement. 40 minutes is the time everyone aims for but I'm going to be a bit more realistic and target 40:30. This is nearly 10 seconds per mile faster than my PB and last year the best I could manage was 41:54 so I think I've got my work cut-out.

And then I had to find a race. The first one to spring to mind was the 10K round Whipsnade Animal Park in early June. I was all set to send off my entry when a last-minute check revealed it's the weekend at the end of half-term. I've nothing planned but it's probably best I keep it clear. After a bit more searching through the events section on the Runners World web site I came across The Dorney Dash 10K on Saturday (yes Saturday) 8th May. Flat, fast and boring by all accounts. I can live with 40-odd minutes of boredom in return for a PB.

And to get this PB I'm going to follow the Runners World 8-Week 10K Schedule, 6-7 Days Per Week schedule. So in theory I should have run 35-40 mins light fartlek today. However, I'd already set my heart on doing the two times two-mile session (a favourite in the FIRST training schedules) and didn't fancy changing. I'll substitute the Tuesday speed session with Rockets, but other than that will try to more or less follow the schedule. And the best thing of all us tomorrow is a rest day - hurrah!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Spring has sprung

The sun is out, the sky is blue, there ain't a cloud to spoil the view......

Yes - spring has allegedly sprung. Two digits are required to display the lunchtime temperature and the tube drivers are well advanced with their plans for a summer strike (OK so I made that last bit up but it's probably true).

Fresh from having missed two weeks of Rockets I was looking forward to today's session. So eager, in fact, that I got to the meet point nearly a minute before the 12:35 off. Richard arrived just after and Steve was apparently at the front mixing with the uber elites.

Up at the canal there was much discussion about the session. Martin arrived mid-debate with a huffing and puffing Colin not far behind (not that this seemed to slow him down). Four 1,200s with two-minute recovery seemed to be winning and then just as we set off it changed to four five-minute efforts. My optimistic assumption we'd be sticking with two-minute recoveries proved to be wrong. And Richard's hopes of an extra minute at the turn were cruelly dashed too.

I'd like to think I ran a B minus session today with a still unfit Martin carrying the flag for C runners to the rear. Surprisingly Sarah seemed to be slower than me although she may well be recovering from a weekend race. Richard put in a superb B plus performance - well at least for the first two reps. And Steve - well he was here there and everywhere (especially when I tried to overtake).

Ian made a classic schoolboy error when his work pass slipped from his hand straight into the canal. Really - I'd expect better from a man of his calibre. And apparently he was too much of a pussy to fish it out - call yourself elite?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Saturday Sandridge and Nomansland

Following Sunday's race, last week's running comprised just easy five-mile runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Having then taken Friday as a bonus rest day, and knowing I won't be able to get out tomorrow, the pressure was on today to get some quality miles under the belt.

Luckily I was joined for my run by Lee, a man who finished over three minutes ahead of me at the Fred Hughes 10 and clearly a chap unfamiliar with the concept of nine-minute mile pace.

I had in mind a 10-mile(ish) loop taking us out in the direction of St Albans before bearing left opposite the pick you own farm. The plan then was to follow the path over the railway, skirt round Heartwood, and down to Sandridge. From there we would continue the loop round hopefully coming out towards the east of Wheathampstead. I’d done a similar run a few months ago with Niall and so although only vaguely familiar with the section between Sandridge and Wheathampstead thought I’d be able to pick it up OK.

Needless to say I didn't. Close but no cigar. We came to a road crossing. I should have gone right. We stuck to the trail. Next thing I know we're at Nomansland. Oh well not what I intended but not a disaster by any means.

Up until now the route had been reasonably flat - a few ups but all very gradual and hardly noticeable. So it was only after six and a half miles that Lee played his trump card: he doesn't slow for hills. Oh no - quite the opposite. He accelerates. Apparently this is something he picked up off Simon (thanks mate). So that made the last few miles fun with noticeable less talking (well from me at least).

Back to Harpenden via Southdown (Lee's idea - I think he was keen to run up Crabtree Lane) and home gave me just over 11 miles on the watch. Average pace was 7:48 although the uphills were run much quicker. Day off tomorrow and then back to speedwork next week. And, at last, maybe some warmer weather...

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Milton Keynes Half Marathon

So today was the day: Milton Keynes Half Marathon 2010 (incorporated into the all new Milton Keynes Festival of Running).

Race routine: sort gear out night before, get up an hour and half before need to leave, porridge with honey for breakfast, Strong coffee, pack banana for eating an hour before race start and we're done. Oh yes and sunglasses.

This year the MK Half start moved from the Open University to the city centre outside Xscape. There was also a new course, although eight miles mid race follow the old route up round Willen Lake. That meant we now benefited from a downhill mile at the start. However what goes down tends to come up again (and I'm not just talking about your tenth pint) so the last mile was up (more about that later).

At the start I made my way down the side to almost the front, jumped the barrier and started looking for Dave from work. Instead I found Aro Runners Lee and Hannah which was a nice surprise.

Just after 10am a rather pathetic hooter was sounded and we were off. Lee and Hannah disappeared into the distance, not to be seen again until the finish, and I was left to set my own pace while avoiding the runners dressed as smurfs.

The run turned out to be hard. The wind was forever changing direction (or maybe we were changing direction) and it seemed we were always on either a slight incline or decline. Almost every time I glanced at my watch it told me I'd slowed to seven minute mile pace and so I had to make a conscious effort to push and get back to something nearer my 6:52 target. And that final mile - it was murder. And it wasn't just me. My split for the mile was 7:20 and it wasn't as if anyone overtook me. Everyone was dead. A couple of guys were walking - you can't believe how tempting it was to stop and join them. Finally, with the finishing announcers voice getting louder we got to the top and about 200m of flat to the finish.

And my time: Gun to finish 1:29:34. Chip time 1:24. Phew - done it!

And hat's off to Hannah (1:28:04) and Lee (1:28:31) too. Top running guys -well done.

But back to me. Delighted with my results I couldn't resist sending text to all my running buddies past and present. I've been trying to break 1:30 for two years so I wasn't in the mood to keep it to myself!

Mile split times for those interested were 06:33, 06:44 (average over miles 2 and 3 as missed 2nd mile marker), 6:37, 7:05 (wake-up call!), 6:43, 06:53, 06:49 (again average over 2 miles), 6:42, 6:40, 6:59, and finally 07:20. See I told you that last miled was hard!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Last One

So today was the last training session before Sunday's race. Both the FIRST and Runners World schedules agreed on 400m (make that 90 seconds) reps. OK so perhaps it's a little late in the day to start following a training schedule but as Tesco say "Every Little Helps".

It was sunny with little wind so the Victoria Embankment was the only place to go. And not only me - it seemed every lunchtime runner in London had decided on the same.

Eight reps with full minute recoveries (easy for me to keep track) were the order of the day. Lots of dodging in and out of tourists and other runners kept it all fun while trying not to twist or turn anything that shouldn't twist or turn.

Given my current form I think I'll struggle to beat Kenny in the Berkhamsted Half Marathon on Sunday as he is both stronger and has greater endurance. And beside that I'll be 25 miles away at the time running the Milton Keynes half!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Too Slow

With a week to go to my half-marathon I've finally consulted a couple of training schedule. The general consensus seems to be that the weekend before the race, rather than going long, the recommended run is a hard 10K. OK with me.

Joy of joys woke up this morning to my least favourite running weather: blowing a gale with driving rain. Immediately switched to plan B - lunchtime run.

11:30am weather check - blowing a gale with driving rain. Plan C...

So finally leave the house at 4pm. Still blowing a gale but at least the rain has subsided. A quick check of the weather beforehand and I know the wind is coming from the north-west. Original idea had been for some sort of Rothamsted Park/Childwickbury loop but given the wind direction quickly hatch an alternative plan to head north up the Luton Road.

Boy it was hard work. The first two miles into the wind (and slightly uphill) were churned out at about 6:50 pace. Turning left onto Kinsbourne Green Lane, which starts with a short section of real uphill, and I’m paying the price for the energetic start.

Mile three was painfully slow (I can’t bring myself type out the split time) after which with the wind and incline in my general favour I was able to regain some lost time.

Anticipated killer stitch kicked in about mile four just as I was coming back into civilisation (well Roundwood). Took the easy option dropping straight down to The Luton Road by which time felt a bit better and so was able to push on.

With a bit of a wiggle round Leyton Rod managed to get back to The George with bang on six miles on the watch - average pace 6:54. Way, way too slow given its two seconds slower than target half-marathon pace. Let's hope it's not so windy next Sunday.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

One Minute Rocket Blasts

A great benefit of going to Rockets is doing sessions you wouldn't normally consider. Apparently it's the nationals this weekend (presumably different to the Grand National) so there weren't many fast folks out and those that were there wanted a light session. Hence, the call was 10 one-minute reps with 30 seconds recovery and a full minute at the turn.

Well that doesn't sound too bad does it? Unless of course you decide to run with the B pack... Karen was taking it easy (but still faster than me), however, Richard was full on and so I judged my pace off him. He got away from me on a couple of reps (including the all important 10th) but in general I was just about able to hang on.

It was good to see Niall's buddy Andrew Stubbs out today. He was saying how much he likes his new Nike Free running shoes. I don't think they'd work for me but it's great he has found something which is giving his running a real boost.

Of course real men run barefoot...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Back To Blogging

Following Friday's Hare & Hounds, Saturday's glorious long (16.1 miles), Sunday's itzy bitzy easy 5 and yesterday's rest day I was all geared up for good hard Rockets session today. All was looking good, with Chris intending to come along too, until I was called in for a one on one with my manager at 12 midday. When her manager also joined us making it a two on one I knew Rockets was looking unlikely. I finally left the office at the same time I need to be leaving the gym in order to make it to the Rockets meet point just about on time. Intervals will have to wait until Thursday.

So today's session ended up as a 5-mile tempo. And what an unpleasant experience it was. Driving rain is my least favourite running weather and boy did that rain drive today. Luckily I decided to head east for a loop round Limehouse Basin which meant the wind was generally behind me on the way back (but hideously against me on the way out). So given I got round 6:44 pace I'm not too happy.

Roll on spring.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


So as I came out from running under one of the canal bridges I was paying more attention to my watch than where I was going. My hand slammed into a metal post with the first finger taking the full impact. Result: instant blood, swelling and pain.

Session over. Hobble home.

Had completed an 8 minutes and was on the second of four 4 minute efforts. However, due to the lack of C runners had run the reps at B minus pace and so was already exhausted and about to pack. So didn't actually miss that much running.

Did hurt though. Still hurts now. Wont do that again in a rush.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Go North Young Man

After Saturday's solitary affair I fancied some company today and so sent out an invite for anyone who wanted to join me to be outside The George at 7:15 for a run towards St. Albans. Kenny and Tony replied in the positive and were waiting for me as I headed down the High Street at 7:14 having put in a couple of sneaky early miles.

10 miles was OK with everyone and with no firm route planned the guys were agreeable, if not somewhat bemused, when I suggested heading north for loop round Perpperstock.

St. Albans can wait for another day.

A few minutes into the run I had a mad fumble moment with the Garmin. The watch won and hence the route below starts just before Hollybush Lane.

I don't think the guys were over impressed by the scenery offered by the A1081, however, after three miles we turned left and had the opportunity to run up a wee incline. Kenny immediately noticed my change in form and threatened to tell Niall (Niall? Names sounds familiar but can't quite place him).

At the top we threw in a loop down Half Moon Lane (hmm - so many Transit vans and electricity generators!) before picking up Pepsal End Road for the journey home.

Having been sick the last few weeks, this was Tony's first run of the year and within a few miles I think he was suffering. No complaints. No short cuts. He stuck with us through to the end - a real mind over matter run. Respect.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Solo Saturday

Kenny snubbed my invite/offer to join him so I was left to run all on my lonesome this morning. With nothing planned for the day there was no rush to get out so I didn’t hit the street until just after 9am.

Yesterday’s mild weather fooled me into thinking it would be warm again. Wrong. The mist and light breeze kept the temperature down and heading into the wind it felt quite chilly.

With no particular route in mind I ventured out with the intention of doing about five on-road miles, at recovery pace, while keeping away from hills. Heading up the Luton Road I was minded to turn right, through Thrales End, over the hill, down to East Hyde and back along the carpet tarmac of the Lea Valley Walk. However, I figured that wouldn’t give me five miles and I didn’t fancy the prospect of throwing in a loop over Pickford Hill and around the back of Batford.

So instead I turned left up Ridegwood Drive, I road I’ve not run up before, and as I neared the summit finally formulated a plan for the remainder of the run: Kinsbourne Green, Expensive Christmas Tree Farm Lane, Roundwood Lane and home. On the way back through Harpenden I added a trip through Lydekker Park for good measure.

Just over six miles at a bone shaking average pace of nine minutes per mile. That should have the boys & girls at Rockets quivering in their spiked cross-country running shoes.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Mile(ish) Reps

After Wednesday's recovery run and yesterday's rest day today should have been a straight forward tempo. However, I fancied something a bit different and decided one mile reps would be a good session. That idea evolved into four reps of 7-minutes at 6:30 pace with 3-minute recoveries.

Mid morning I had an e-mail from Marting inviting me join him on an easy Limehouse loop. The idea of company was tempting but I learnt my lesson over the summer that missing out on the tempo sessions is not a good idea. So instead I tried to persuade Martin to join me - I think he was tempted but having done Rockets yesterday wasn't game. He did, however, pour scorn over my proposed "deckchair recoveries". Hmm - OK then. 8-minutes, same pace, 2-minute recovery.

So headed out to St Katherine dock and started the clock once in clear space. It was a bit of a struggle to hit the right pace at first but with the wind behind me I flew down to Canary Wharf averaging 6:26 and 6:16 over the first two reps. After the turn with tired legs and negative wind assistance it was harder going but I still managed to pump out averages of 6:25 and 6:27.

Good session. I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Wet Rockets With The No Hope Mob

Thanks to a biting wind it was rather chilly on yesterday's unblogged recovery run. Today was a milder but wet.

Luckily there was a big turnout at Rockets so jacking was not an option. Richard has now firmly established himself as a B runner; however, there was still plenty of company at the back. Today's roll call included Chris and Josef from work, Mr "just in time" Wood and a guy wearing a blue jacket who I didn't recognise.

The session was ten 2-minute reps off a minute recovery. Yes - very similar to last Thursday's session (eight 2-minute reps off a minute recovery) but it's hardly my place to question the pronouncements from the mighty elite.

With the Christmas Mince Pie handicap still very much in place Martin and Chris proved to be poor competition (sorry guys - but I know you can both run faster than me) and so it was down to Mr Blue Jacket to fight it out to finish ahead in each rep. I think I 'won' the first two and last five with my new found foe taking the other three.

It would all have been quite satisfying if it hadn't have been for how much distance those blasted B runners put on us. Last Thursday I was within swearing distance of Richard - today I would have needed a mobile phone.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Extra Early Sunday Morning

The choice today was either 6:45 am start for 10 miles with Kenny or 7:30 start for something a bit faster are probably at least as far with Simon and Lee.

I went to bed undecided and still contemplating a 7am solo effort instead.

As it happens I woke early and so decided on the Kenny option...

However, got to the Amble Inn twenty seconds late. No sign of Kenny! But he wouldn't have waited as I hadn't confirmed I'd be coming. Had a good look round for runners disappearing into the distance but none to be seen. Decisions, decisions. Started to slowly head back up Station Road and lo and behold there was tango man thundering down the hill.

If I'd been on my own I would have headed towards Wheathampstead. However, Kenny said something about heading the other way and going up "The Hill" - we headed north.

The sky was clear so while being cold it was nowhere near as dark as Friday morning. In company The Hill was far less foreboding and we summitted with ease. Down the other side I felt compelled to demonstrate my uber fast downhill running technique employed to great effect in last Sunday's race.

From there we took my standard route through Kingsbourne Green past Expensive Christmas Tree Farm but instead of hanging a left onto Roundwood Lane headed down to the golf course following the Herts 10K route in reverse all the way back to Rothamsted Park.

Kenny was master of the mileage and knew how to make the round trip back to his house bang on ten miles. However, having done nothing except eat on Saturday I felt the need to carry on a bit further and threw in a 3 mile loop taking me into half-marathon territory.

Not a particularly fast run but 8:34 average isn't that bad given the bumpy profile.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Early Rain

It might have stopped by the time everyone else got up, however, at 6:10 this morning it was still very much pouring with rain. With the sky full of clouds and an hour and a half to go to sunrise it was also very dark. An ideal opportunity for getting the headtorch out and going for a run if ever I've seen one.

Just did an easy five mile anti-clockwise loop by way of Swan Walk (north) and Cooters End Lane. Didn't follow-up with lunchtime intervals or any other such madness. Only a true loony would think of doing something that crazy.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Back To The Rockets

Thanks to latrine congestion I was late getting to the Rockets meet point. Instead of arriving thirty seconds early I was thirty seconds late which given the speed of their "warm-up" is quite a gap to have to close. Luckily delays crossing City Road worked in my favour and gave the opportunity to catch.

With the Southern Counties cross-country this weekend elites were in in short supply. And of those present only one did the full session. After the usual mutterings the session was called as eight two-minute reps off a minute's recovery.

The session was quite unusual. With the elite(s) taking it easy and jogging back after each effort we ran the reps as a single group. The short fast efforts were a welcome shock to the system after the last three days of little effort. So that's it. Recovery over. Back to training...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Easy SE1

Current temperature 2 degree Celsius.
Feels like -2 degree Celsius.

Perhaps not the best day to forget one's thermal base layer. Luckily I was saved by my yellow emergency wind-proof(ish) gilet.

Following Sunday's exertion the legs ached yesterday but felt much better today. However, didn't feel recovered enough for speedwork so gave the Rockets a miss and went for an easy run along the Old Kent Road (why not?). The very same lunchtime Kenny was busy pumping out 6:20 miles with the National Grid elite while I was happy to plod around covering a mile every nine minutes. Spooky role reversal or what?

Did seven miles - no specific aches or pains - but legs did feel a bit tired. Not sure what the rest of the week has in store. Simon is making positive Locket Rocket noises so guess I'll be back up their with my Niall replacement soon.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Fred Hughes 10

I've changed my mind - I actually ran OK.

A couple of miles into the race I decided to target completing the ten miles at 6:50 pace. In my oxygen depleted race stupor I calculated that meant finishing in 68:10.

So when I actually crossed the line in 68:29 I was slightly disappointed to miss the goal by the best part of twenty seconds. However, a few hours later, having rehydrated, refuelled and brought my heart rate down from zone five I realised I should have been aiming for 68:20. So given the rolling nature of the course missing out by nine seconds doesn't seem so bad.

Crunching the number further shows a pleasing negative split (34:26 out, 34:03 back) and that's with slightly more uphill in the second half. Actual lap times (for those having trouble sleeping) are 6:54, 6:51, 6:36, 6:52, 7:03, 7:07, 6:39, 6:44, 6:35 and 6:22.

And that's all based on the course mile markers. According to Garmin I ran an inefficient 195 feet further than 10 miles. Plugging that into the magic numbers machine gives 6:49 pace. Bingo. See - manipulate the inputs enough and you can get to any desired result.

With neither Niall nor Kenny on form it's difficult to objectively judge my performance. According to the McMillan Running Calculator to hit a 1:30 half-marathon (6:52 pace) I should be knocking out 10 mile races at 6:46 pace. So no good news there. What was clear is this is a course that rewards those that can run down hill quickly. With high cadence and the feet barely touching the ground I was zooming past people left right and centre.

And what of the others?

Niall missed out on his post-match massage but at least has a new T-shirt to wear when changing the oil on his car.

Given Kenny's need to avoid a random drugs test he did well to keep a low profile and finish in the pack with the "fun runners".

David disappeared up front at the start never to be seen again. According to the results he finished in 66:16, which is mighty impressive given his long training run yesterday.

And Simon had a stormer, finishing an incredible sixth and only nine seconds behind the third place man. Without last night's dinner party he would have been on the podium.

Out of the 617 finishers I came in 72nd. Not even in the top 10%! Hold on - I've changed my mind again...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Swan Song

Today was Niall's last session with the Rockets. In recognition of his contribution to the running group he was given the honour of leading the first of our six 4-minute reps. I would have gone for throwing him in the canal...

Chris and Josef from work said they would come along to the training session. However, I met them going into the changing rooms just as I was leaving for the off (no I didn't wait) and they only just made it up to the canal in time for the first rep. Schoolboy error number two was neither had a watch. Hard to believe these guys have actually been running for years.

Sarah was there too so Niall asked if she knew about showers in the Gherkin for Simon. Her reply was in the negative, although expressed in rather more colourful language and definitively not reproducible here.

With the Fred Hughes 10 on Sunday there was no point killing myself and was happy to run at 95% effort. Steve was jubilant to finish the set ahead of me. Oh well, if I've made someone happy today that's no bad thing.

Monday, 18 January 2010

One Year On...

Today is the anniversary of my first ever run with what has now become known as Harpenden Running Fource.

If I'd know at the time what I was letting myself in for I would have made my polite excuses and given it a miss. The benefit of hindsight...

I would, however, like to say what a great year it's been and how I've enjoyed running with such an inspiring group of like-minded runners. Yes I would like to say that, but can't, as I'd be lying through my teeth!

No, but seriously, I've now come to look on Niall, David, Kenny and Simon as, well I guess, as people I've met that have somehow got my e-mail address and won't leave me alone. A bit like internet spammers but with Lycra and DayGlo jackets instead of Viagra.

So to celebrate this auspicious occasion I went for a run with Niall and Andrew out through Wapping. Well re-enacting the original run to Verulamium Park would have been a bit of a stretch for a lunchtime given it's 20 miles away.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

We have the technology… We have light!

The easy early morning run the day after the Hare and Hounds the day before...

Had arranged a bright and early 7am start with Niall with the intention of taking the Nicky Line to Redbourn. Early it was, bright it certainly wasn't. Rain had been forecast and with the extra cloud cover (and little snow) it seemed darker than ever. Most of the ice had melted but there were still patches out there to catch out the unwary. Taking to an unlit tree lined footpath in these circumstances seemed out of the question.

However, opening my front door seconds before the appointed meeting time I was greeted by a grinning Niall (not sure how long he’d been lurking out there) complete with his latest Christmas gizmo – a head torch. Fantastic! I’ve got one of them too - bought by my nearest and dearest for our wedding anniversary (yes I know – how romantic). However, unsure how comfortable it would be on a long run I hadn't used it yet. "Hold on, I’ve got one of them too. Just need to put some batteries in. Back in a second". Slam! Leaving Niall on the doorstep while I quickly grabbed the torch, fitted batteries and put it on over my running hat.

Wow – what a revelation. Why I hadn’t I done this before? OK so we had two torches and Niall’s was slightly brighter than mine. But it was such an improvement.

It tuned out the Nicky Line was still very icy – doing it in the dark would have been too risky. But with our new illuminating technology we were fine.

Once in Redbourn Niall threw in a short new section round Church End for me. However, the real fun didn't start until after Redbournbury Watermill on the way back. I knew there was a route via Hammonds End Farm and thought today was as good as a day as any to try it. Truth is it wasn't as there was still sufficient snow on the ground to hide the footpaths. Anyway we went straight when we should have gone left and ended up stuck in a farmers field and had to cut onto the golf course to make our great escape. That mile took us 12:46 - yup barely quicker than walking speed. Kenny would have loved it!

Anyway after that crossed Redbourn Lane and followed the track straight across the field (wot no footpath sign?). Before we knew it we were heading for the tree lined avenue into Rothamsted Park and home. Just as it started to rain - perfect.

Friday, 15 January 2010

View From The Back

Today was the first running of the JPM Hare and Hounds five mile handicap over the all-new Westminster/Three Bridges/Blackfriars route. My initial thoughts on seeing it was there were too may steps. However, having now run the course in anger I've warmed to it.

First surprise of the day for me was that despite Niall running the last H&H quicker he would be starting today nine seconds ahead. Second surprise was I was down as the fastest runner and so would be starting last. Surely some mistake?

So my expectation was for a pretty lonely run with Niall disappearing off into the distance and me finishing dead last. And one mile in with Niall now about 17 seconds ahead and no other runners in sight my prediction was looking good.

However, by mile two Niall seemed to be getting closer. And then, with the wind now behind us, running back from Vauxhall Bridge and over Lambeth Bridge I gradually bit by bit got closer until finally catching as we rounded the back of County Hall. I had just enough energy to grunt "Are you saving yourself for the last mile?" I didn't hear a reply - maybe he muttered something unprintable under his breath - I'll have to check his blog to find out.

With just over a mile to go it was then a case of keeping going and not looking back (well not until I was crossing Blackfriars Bridge). I overtook a few runners that looked kind of familiar as so I presumed were also H&H. I didn't say anything just in case.

Final uphill over Blackfriars Bridge was not as bad as I had feared. Yes I felt like my mid-morning bagel was about to make a reappearance but hey that's racing.

In the end I finished the five miles in 33:12 - an unexpected 27 seconds ahead of Niall. So I guess that goes to show running 40 mile training weeks in freezing temperatures battling against snow and ice is better race preparation than spending two weeks on an all-inclusive sun holiday. I'm glad that's been resolved...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Early Bird

I had to go up to Luton to get some new boots for the family run-around fitted this morning. I didn't think it would take long (it did - but that's another story) but still decided to err on the side of caution and get my easy run in first thing rather than wait until lunchtime.

It was lightly snowing when I left the house at 6:45 and there was a welcoming fresh half-inch covering on the ground. However, it was still very dark and the cloud cover made the light seem very flat so decide not to venture too deep into the wilderness.

Instead I headed north on Swan Walk, turning left onto Cooters End Lane. However, having passed under the railway bridge I kept going straight (the road with no name?) instead of bearing left to stay on Cooters End Lane. I tend not to go straight like this as I find he road a bit exposed, bleak and just plain boring. However, all dressed in white it was a world away from the usual experience. House lights twinkled in the distance while the cushioned road made the running feel effort-free. The white glow from the expanse of surrounding fields was almost haunting.

Dropped down through Thrales End and back to civilisation (well the Luton Road). Completing the loop home took the distance to 5.25 miles at a very leisurely 9:52 average pace. That must be my slowest run since... well since I started logging runs (2005).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Back To Rockets

I've been doing plenty of running this year (72 miles to be precise) but no speedwork. So today it was back to Rockets for some New Year punishment. Arrived at the meeting point spot on time (12:34!) to find lots of people, some of whom I even recognised.

Warm-up to the canal was, how should I put it? Brisk. Got dropped a couple of times but managed to just about keep the main pack in sight. Once up there much debate ensued. Too many cooks? If Ian had been there it would have been decided in an instant. Dissent would not have been tolerated.

In the end the session was finally called as 10 minutes out, 2 minutes recovery, then three reps of five minutes, again with 2 minutes recovery, back. Yeah - 10 minutes out and 15 minutes back - go figure!

I did the 10 minutes and two 5-minute reps which not too surprisingly brought us back to the start. The others then decided on two 3-minute reps. However, I was good only for heading home which I did with fellow C runners Steve and Richard plus one of the elites who I'm guessing must have indulged in a touch too much Christmas pudding.

Canal was frozen (except under bridges). Towpath was snow and ice-free. Unusual sighting of the day was the swivel office chair embedded in the ice mid canal. Bad day in the office?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Out East With Sean

Sunday's easy five mile run didn't happen. I felt tired and decided extra sleep would be more beneficial than forty odd minutes gallivanting through the sub-zero Hertfordshire countryside. Felt I was kind of letting Running Fource down, however, Simon saved the day and ventured out to the mighty Sommeries Castle (or part thereof) with Darren.

So that makes Monday the new (recovery run) Sunday. Had intended doing the usual Westminster Bridge loop, however, this changed when I bumped into Sean in the gym. Turns out today is the first day of his Brighton Marathon training schedule. It's also his first day's running for a good few weeks thanks to injury and Christmas hols. And what does the schedule say - five miles easy - perfect!

He had been intending to do an easy session on the treadmill (yeah I know - soft southern shandy drinker) but was all too happy to accept my invite to run outside. Of course this led to the usual wardrobe issues (shorts - no running longs) but at least with the temperature hitting the dizzy heights of two degrees (above zero!) it seemed warmer today.

So as we leave the gym I'm about to turn right and head for Westminster when Sean pipes up "so what about these canals you keep telling me about..." No problem. About turn, let's go east...

Down past Shadwell Basin, quick loop of King Edward VII Memorial Park, and back - exactly five miles. More luck than judgement but fine with me.

I let Sean set the pace, which meant going slightly quicker than usual recovery run speed. I think this was mainly due to nervousness on his part as he didn't want to go too slow for me! Ha if only he'd knew - me - I'm all gear no idea!